Sunday, January 31, 2010

1Cor13-Love sermon

Jeremiah 1:4-10; 1 Cor 13:1-13; WPC Santa Fe; January 31, 2010
A very deliberate and sincere message for the day. 

Jeremiah's call story is marvelous and typical at the same time.  Marvelous, the hand of God touches his mouth! Typical in that God comes personally to Jeremiah, commissions him to do God's will and speak God's word. Then there is the doubt, insecurity, fear: “I can’t do it! And finally God always reassurance: “yes you can!” 

Isn't that how each of us was called too? Hey, you down there, yeah you.  Get busy doing what I told you to do!” Regardless of how marvelous or typical our call was: Each of us has been called in various ways nonetheless! Sometimes we trivialize our calling, was it really God? Now what was it God wanted me to do?”
But it’s really quite simple.
Yes it was God, and, as we have looked at the last few chapters of 1 Corinthians we see that God wants us to not make ourselves out to be better than our brothers and sisters but to serve our brothers and sisters.  God wants to remind us that in community we all belong, and mysteriously are the body of Christ, and today we see that God wants us to act in love

At the end of chapter 12 of his first letter to the Corinthians, after talking about all of these wonderful spiritual ways of being the body of Christ the apostle Paul gives us a little teaser...a way of saying, oh, but I haven't finished yet, do read on. He says...but let me show you still a more excellent way.  

So this week, we talk about the more excellent way: Christian marriage.  Ha! Tell me it's not true.  How many of you who have been married chose to have 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter, read for your ceremony. 

The way that love is defined in this passage is certainly appropriate for the context of a marriage: Spouses loving one another in this way would make for a healthy long lasting relationship.  But, marriage I'm sure was far from Paul's mind when he wrote this.  Paul is writing to a group who is trying to be a community of believers with one another but is struggling at what that means. He uses words like envy, because this is what the Corinthians had (3:3);  boasting, this is what Corinthians do (4:7; 5:6); Puffed up, the Corinthians are (4;6)[1]  

Paul is reminding that community that their true calling and purpose is to live a loved filled life, so that we may be unified and whole with each other and with God. Love=the most excellent way.

But what does love really mean?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

CCT Minister Report 2009

Minister Report 2009

In the fall of 2009, I was in a conversation with Paul Debenport, minister of First Presbyterian, Albuquerque.  I mentioned to him that the end of ’09 would mark the end of my third year at WPC.  He enthusiastically said,  “Ah, the end of the third year! I love that place of ministry.”  He went on to say something to the effect of by the end of the third year, you know if you are going to make it with the congregation or not; and if you are going to make it you can experience a lot of freedom and build on the wonderful relationships that have been established.  I know I’m going to make it! And am grateful for the freedoms I’ve experienced and look forward to continuing to deepen the relationships I have with the wonderful people of WPC.

This year brought on new challenges and I again learned very significant lessons.  An invaluable reading of Eugene Peterson’s, Under the Unpredictable Plant, helped to reinterpret my role as Pastor with a re-emphasis of Pastor as Spiritual Leader, not programmatic doer. As a spiritual leader, my top three priorities I tried and am trying to live into are: worship leadership, leadership development, and community involvement.  

Worship leadership: planning for worship, chair of Alabad care, preaching, singing in voice choir, and involving laity and clergy friends in planning and leading worship.  Note: as preacher, because of the relationship with the congregation, I am much less anxious in a preaching role, and while preaching takes a considerable amount of energy and imagination, I value the potential and power of the spoken word to transform a people in their relationship with God and the world. One of my favorite activities is study as I prepare for sermons. One of Trasie’s favorite activities is correcting and sharpening my sermons on Saturday night, right dear?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Eye and the Hand duke it out: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a

The Eye and the Hand duke it out: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
Westminister Presbyterian Church, Santa Fe, January 24, 2010

“The human body has 206 bones, 639 muscles, and about 6 pounds of skin, along with ligaments, cartilage, veins, arteries, blood, fat, [organs, fibers, tissues]....
Every time we hear a sound; every time we take a step; every time we take a breath [or eat a bit of food], hundreds of different parts [and thousands of different cells] work together, so that we experience a single movement, [accomplish a common purpose]….[1] 

We know more about the human body today than Paul did when he was writing 2000 years ago.  But he knew enough to know how powerful and mysterious an image the body would be for the church.[2] Paul describes the our individual bodies as well as our collective bodies forming one gathered community, as the temple in which God’s Spirit may dwell, and inspire and lead and move. The body of Christ—where the mission of Christ continues to be realized. 

The body is a holy mystery…I still can’t get over the miracle of birth, but what about the miracle of food converted into energy, or air converted into mostly oxygen, making a sound to sing singing.  Our collective bodies as community is a holy mystery…prayer for one another, working together for the common good, paying my salary this is a mystery and miracleJ. 
Richard Rohr says, “The spiritual world is hidden and perfectly revealed in the physical world.”[3] Paul makes this point well. 

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Missing Christmas?

This already has over 3 million hits, but I was just sent this from Sherl Rehn.

A good watch of "The Silent Monks" performing Handle's "Hallelujah" Chorus:

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Call to Scripture

Active/ ruling elders at WPC have agreed to be responsible for Scripture reading in church each and every Sunday.  I think this is great for a number of reasons: ensures they are reading scripture, puts them in front of the congregation so people know who they are (aka "face-time"), and it associates the importance of the proclaimation of God's word--written with the importance of the office of elder.

I like what Charles M. Olsen, in Transforming Church Boards into communities of spiritual leaders, says about the importance of Scripture in the life of the elder:
Addressing Elders: "Root yourself in scripture.  The Bible shapes the life of the disciple and is used as a source of support and guidance for the spiritual leader.  Discipline in scripture study is important for two reasons.
    "First, God calls upon you to make decisions affecting the life and mission of a faith community; those decisions must be informed by a larger story. If you see your personal story as the continuation of God's story of redemption and release, you live out the master story.
   "Don't feel that you have to know the whole Bible to be an effective [elder]. But a willingness to engage in serious study individually and with others will enhance your ministry.
   "The second rationale for practicing scriptural discipline is more personal.  You will need support, encouragement, comfort, and challenge as a leader, and daily scripture reading can provide all four."

Here are some links that can help assist with daily scripture reading:

Monday, January 18, 2010

Cluttered Sanctuaries, Cluttered Lives

A message to our church, WPC, from J. Philip Newell's One Foot in Eden: A Celtic View of the Stages of Life:

Jesus' cleansing of the temple expressed his depth of inner passion. This was no superficial religious concern.  Its parallel today is not a fastidious protectiveness of our church sanctuaries from all noise and liveliness. Rather the Mystery that was guarded in the half-light of the temple, and the love of God that was taught in the Scriptures and ritual of the sacred place, pointed to the Holiness and the Love that are at the heart of all life.  Jesus' outrage was motivated not by a liturgical fanaticism for decorum in the temple but by a passionate desire to reclaim an awareness and a reverence for the One who dwells in the inner sanctuary of the Temple of Life itself.  Let us be passionate about recovering a sense of space and stillness in our holy places, but in doing so let us know that at the heart we are pointing to the stillness within ourselves and within all life that need be cleared out, uncluttered of all that opposes or obstructs our awareness of God's presence.

Physically our churches, if they are in a state of clutter, will speak of a lack of space and stillness.  The sometimes absurd hoarding of bits and pieces from the past, with sanctuaries strewn with unnecessary furnishings and a confusing assortment of papers and books, can convey an absence of inner composure. It may be that what is needed in many places is for most of our religious paraphernalia, including the great fixed pews of many sanctuaries, to be thrown out of our church doors.  We need to recover simplicity and uncluttered attentiveness. Think of the way, for instance, in which a bedroom will be prepared with nesting instinct before the arrival of a newborn child. Cleaned, freshly painted, and uncluttered it is a symbol of waiting and welcome.  Simplified and focused places of silence and prayer will similarly speak of yearnings in us to receive the life that is born from within.

More important than rooms and buildings are our minds and bodies, which as St. Paul said are living temples of God.  What are the distractions or obsessions that need to be cleared out if we are to be more aware of the silent mystery of God within us and within the body of creation?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Genesis 4:1-14 and Haitian devastation

Today's (Wed after Baptism of the Lord Sunday) reading is from Gen 4:1-14

As I was reading this, these thoughts came to mind:
-Was this story told as a way to justify the Israelites taking of the land from the Cananites?
-Both Cain and Abel made offerings to God, why was Cain's not accepted?
-Did God instigate this feud between the brothers?

Often when I read these kinds of texts, I think that they are truisms: brothers have altercations violence comes as a result, and in this case there is death. What was behind the events that led to death?  Cain kills Abel out of jealousy?  God had clearly shown favor to Abel and not to Cain, but in the end God's favoritism does not protect, but rather is the impetuous for Cain's deadly action. This passage was written thousands of years ago, about a culture and a people about whom we know very little, so cultural understanding is nearly impossible.

The task of biblical and theological interpretation is to try to make since of current situations, ours and that of others, based on biblical texts and our experiences.  The headlines of this morning were about devastation in the already devastated Haiti.  And in the same hour, I read the story of Cain and Abel.  A story of God's favoritism and God's disfavor.

I can't help but wonder if Haiti, as a collective peoples, can't somehow feel like Cain, wondering if God has any regard for them?   Will they be able to rise up out of the ashes against "Abel"?

But perhaps, Haiti is more like Abel, a humble country whom God favors, but who is being killed by the Cains of the world who have risen up and taken from them, struck them down.  We try to make sense of natural disasters, and God's role in human suffering; but, as the story from Genesis shows, maybe God is not as much of an agent as we humans are..."Your brother's blood is crying out from the ground..."

Even as we try to make sense of it, our response is to be one of compassion. So we give, and we pray:

We pray for Haiti

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As the eyes of the world turn to Haiti, let us join our hearts in prayer:
God of compassion
Please watch over the people of Haiti,
And weave out of these terrible  happenings
wonders of goodness and grace.
Surround those who have been affected by tragedy
With a sense of your present love,
And hold them in faith.
Though they are lost in grief,
May they find you and be comforted;
Guide us as a church
To find ways of providing assistance
that heals wounds and provides hope
Help us to remember that when one of your children suffer
We all suffer
Through Jesus Christ who was dead, but lives
and rules this world with you. Amen.
(Adapted from Book of Common Worship)
-Bruce Reyes-Chow, Gradye Parsons and Linda Valentine

Sunday, January 10, 2010

You are baptized, what did you expect?

Luke 3:15-22, Westminster Pres, Santa Fe. Jan 10, 2010

[Much of the ideas and outline for this sermon came from Joanna Adams sermon broadcast Jan 10, 2010 on entitled "God Believes in You". This is the date of her retirement after an admirable faithful life in ministry.]

Last weekend many of you had a chance to meet my friends, Jeff and Renee, who were in town visiting from Colorado Springs with their energetic and wonderfully curious four-year old twin girls, Lela and Karis. On Saturday, we went to what is becoming one of my favorite places in town: The children's Museum. Fun with face paint, bubbles, giant Costa Rican cockroaches…. It was great. It must have been just after the cockroaches that Jeff approached me: "Hey Topple (that's what my old friends would call me), Renee and I were wondering if you would baptize our kids tomorrow?" I was a little taken aback: What an honor and a privilege! Participating in people's baptisms are some of the most sacred and treasured moments I have as a minister. But, tomorrow? Don't I need session approval for something like that? Doesn't the family need to be part of the congregation? All of these things that come to my mind as a pastor in a church when all I wanted to do is say: YES! I'd love to and what a joy to know that you want them to be baptized, to claim their inheritance as beloved children of God, and that you want me to do it! [Note: Margaret Sandoval, a beloved elderly elder, said to me after the service..."It probably would have been alright for you to baptize those girls." I love her!]

Well, we didn't have a baptism here last Sunday....perhaps the opportunity will come sometime in the future, decently and in order… I certainly suggested as much.

The way baptisms are done in many churches these days is a curious thing. Some churches baptize tiny tiny infants and make all these proclaimations.. Others have a pool in their buildings, as if that really replicates a river baptism: Submersion! I have done several baptisms since I entered the ministry; from infant to a baptism in an ocean where I almost got swept away by the tide!

In this church, with the person to be baptized, we gather around the font, and I say: "Hear the words of our Lord Jesus Christ: 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.'" During the sacrament, everyone present is invited to:"Remember your own baptism and be grateful." Remember our baptism…? Well, I was just 6 months do this, I had to go to my mother and father to ask for some details... They remembered that Matt Moore lifted me up above his head, and I promptly spit up on his suit. Fortunately that was before the service began.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Climate change as a moral ethical issue

Loved this bit of conversation between Krista Tippett and Bill McKibben on "Speaking of Faith":

I hope this conversation may guide some of the lenten practices/ disciplines proposed this year.

MS. TIPPETT: I asked you a little while ago to talk about some really basic information that people could use to begin to wrap their minds around this and I want to ask you a similar question. Again, there's lots of conflicting information about what one can do that is helpful. Right? You know, one year it's drive a hybrid and the next year it's not. One year it's we can create alternative sources for fossil fuel and then the next year that's just as bad for the universe. Recycling is good; recycling doesn't matter.
So where would you want to propose a different way to start thinking about what one can do?
MR. MCKIBBEN: Sure. No, I mean, look, burning fossil fuel is the root of this problem, and so ways that we can figure out to use less of it are the answer. And what's interesting is that burning more and more fossil fuel is almost always or often because we're becoming more and more and more privatized. So many of the answers are about doing things together.
So, yes, it's a good idea to drive a hybrid compared to driving an SUV. It's a much better idea to get on the bus compared with driving a hybrid. It's a much better idea even than that to do what Europeans have done, which is get together with their neighbors and demand that their politicians build a great train network so that they can, without even having to think about it, be innate environmentalists all the time. You know, that's sort of the — and you can do that same kind of scale of things in regard to food or almost anything else.
MS. TIPPETT: OK. Give me another example.
MR. MCKIBBEN: Let's think about another commodity that we all use every day: food, three times a day. OK? The moment the average bite of food that reaches an American's lips has traveled 2,000 miles to get there. That essentially means that it's been marinated in crude oil before you get it. So start thinking about how to change that. A, maybe you start cooking more and better yet, cooking for a bunch of people at one time, which means you have your neighbors over or you figure out how to share cooking and have the pleasure of — I'm a Methodist so potlucks are, you know, deep in my DNA.
MS. TIPPETT: Right. All right.
MR. MCKIBBEN: You start eating lower on the food chain because it's clear that eating lots of red meat is a big problem in terms of the emissions it causes. You start searching out your neighbors to buy food from them. Find the farmers who live near you. Now maybe it costs a little bit more. Maybe not, because you've knocked out a bunch of middle men, but maybe it costs a tiny bit more.
This is advice for people who still have some margin left. It doesn't work for the poorest people in our society who have to figure out how to scrape by. And it's one of the reasons that the great gulf between rich and poor the world around is now not just a sin, it's an enormous practical inconvenience to getting anything done. But it does allow all of us who still have some set of choices and margin to make those choices, not just in the direction of what seems environmentally obvious, but in the direction of what builds strong communities. Because in the end it's strong communities that are efficient, that replace consumptive pleasure with deep human pleasure, that allow us to imagine a future that actually works.

hopes and dreams for wpc 2010

Since becoming part of my beloved community, wpc, santa fe, i have learned to function on a perpetual five year plan.  If I see something that needs to be done, if it's done within the next five years, I'm okay with that, and the five year span is always five years out...this keeps me somewhat patient and sane.
Here are some hopes and dreams that I put on that five year plan, for 2010.

Spiritual aspects of community life together:
1. The session transformed into a "community of spiritual leaders"
2. The session continue to discover what it means to "run the church," and not function with a pastor as CEO mentality (we are presbyterian after all).
3. Healing services happening again
4. Deacons model a lives of radical prayer and radical hospitality.
5. Becoming a "green" church, (i.e. Lenten discipline on "the moral math of climate change", more outdoor worship opportunities, etc)
6. Worship leaders (mostly me) leading worship with a non-anxious presence.
7. Growing into profoundly deep relationships as a community and enjoying one another even more (including small group gatherings).
8. Music continuing transforming our relationship with God.
9. Continuing weekday Taize services, and possibly a Sunday 8:30 am prayer service.
10. Congregation live with radical hospitality as they encounter others within and outside the church the neighborhood and surrounding community.

Physically (not numbered in any particular order):
1. 25 new participants (members and friends) who become involved because we are being church as described by Joanna Adams below.
2. Remodeled nursery--demonstrating our care and nurture for the little children (Mark 10:14)
3. Priority list and 2-5 year plan of building improvement projects.  (floors, baseboards, bike rack, painting, repaint of wooden columns and panels outside, window screens, sliding doors in fellowship hall, portal on the north side, prayer or vegetable garden on east side, kitchen remodel, tween gathering place, gateway entrance from the east side of the sanctuary on Juanita St., landscaping)
4. Seasonal "beautification" of sanctuary, and art.
5. Clean the STAGE (and shed),
6. more user friendly sound system (and new operator)
7. Better use of chancel area...even a remodeling/ reordering of chancel area?
8. The Sign
9. Website fully functioning
10. Usable B-Ball court!
11. Art in the building
12. A history of the church on display.
13. Find a loaned home for a piano. host, Peter Wallace, asked Joanna Adams, the week before she was to retire from an admirable life in ministry (
"What are some of the ways you think Christians will be worshiping and serving and being church in the years to come? Where is the church headed?"

Joanna Adams: "I think the church is headed into an era when there will be more and more emphasis on parish ministry.  Communities of faith that are grounded and directed in their mission by the needs of the communities in which they sit.
"It goes without saying that a lot of our mainline protestant churches have lost membership in significant ways. But, I see the tide turning: where the gospel is preached clearly and in an irenic spirit; when people are given away to serve their neighbor; when they have an opportunity to have the experience of the transcendent God--they will come and be part of a faith community.
"What churches need to stop doing is looking at every visitor who comes in the door, 'Oh my goodness I hope you'll come to church and pay your pledge and help our numbers grow.'
"People aren't interested in helping your church grow or your budget grow. People need the experience of God. They need a way to worship. We were made to worship. We've got to express our awe and our gratitude before the transcendent God. And we were made to serve our neighbor, God gave us that capacity. A church that stays joyfully connected to those two key missions is going to thrive. They might be large churches, they might be small churches. But, our job is to be hopeful, joyful, generative, always thinking about what might happen if we come together in the spirit of Christ, the Spirit of compassion."

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Mt. Taylor Quad here I come!

Two years ago, our friends, Craig and Brenda, convinced us to do this crazy thing: participate with them as a team in the Mt Taylor Quad (  The four events: Bike 26 miles, Run 10 miles, Cross Country Ski 3 miles, Snow Shoe 1 mile up and down an inactive volcano, Mt. Taylor located outside of an old mining town, Grants, one hour west of Albuquerque.  We registered as "Los Rucos de El Oasis" which some how came out as "Los Pukos del Oasis".  Trasie biked, Brenda ran, Craig skiied and I snow shoed and we finished almost in last place for our grouping.  Still we had a great time.  Afterwards, I vowed to do the event myself in the following years.

I wasn't able to do the event last year due to Ruby's birth 2 weeks before the event...I thought about it, but then thought better.
This year, I got training really late, so figured I better not push it, and should partner up with one other person, and compete in either bike and jog, or ski and shoe.  I found a partner, Pat, in a random meeting at a party.  But then, my doctor, church elder, friend Gerzain Chavez, who is nearly 20 years older than I, and had knee surgery last year, urged me on to doing it myself.  HE WAS planning on competing himself.   What could I say.
So, a month and a half out, I have begun training in earnest, having jogged 12 miles and shoe shoed about 6 miles in the last 8 days, and taking my bike to the repair shop to get a tire fixed, and searching the internet for xcountry ski boots.  I feel really good and am excited about getting out there. Several other friends are going to participate as well: Antonio, Liz, Andrew, Jen, Craig, and maybe a few others.  Looking forward to Feb 14!  

Christmas Eve Highlights 2009!

Last night's Christmas eve service left me with lots to be thankful for and was very meaningful.
Highlights to remember (in chonological order):
-My parents, wife and I playing Barbara Medina's (a 70+ year-old spring chicken) Wii until 1 pm that day then having to frantically try to get everything done before the service, including having my chickens checked on by hermano Cruz, getting the parking lot cleaned of snow
-Chris Graeser supplying not only his 3 year old son Theodore, but also his 12 year old nephew to fill in as shepherds since we are so short on boys.  The nephew said my favorite line of the drama: "Let us go now even unto bethleham to see this thing which has come to pass which the Lord has made known to us." (but not in King James, and he missed it just a bit).  Chris almost stole the show with his ad-lib commentary on Theodore protesting his role as shepherd: "One of the shepherds didn't get his nap."  Which was followed by Theodore saying a few moments later: "I don't want to go see Jesus... I don't want to go see Jesus"
- Libby Naranjo played an excellent Grandma.
- Maya, Megan, and Isabel were wonderful grandchildren, really had their parts down well.
-Ruby, in her first pageant ever, also was in a star role, playing one of the younger grandchildren at the feet of grandmother Libby; about half way through the scene, she saw her daddy "back stage" and she "exited the stage" by crawling to me.
- Michael and Keri Brinegar on cello and violin.
- Milee unintentionally blowing her candle out (her only light) while reading her line during the advent wreath lighting before she was able to read the last word she was to read ("Child").  Another reminder not to necessarily give a relatively serious role to her, these things just kind of happen :).
- No one able to light the advent wreath candle with the candles they were carrying....
- Andrew Black celebrating communion with Charles Georgia and me.
- A packed house
- Avery Marsh song: "tell the story" and "Mary Mary"
- Farolitos by Ytuartes
- Seeing Harold and his kids
- During the benediction when all the lights were down and everyone had their candles lit, I said: "Light has shined in the darkness" and one of the women who had turned off the lights thought that was her cue to turn the lights back on, killing a very tranquil and surreal moment.  I said, calmly, "Oh, don't turn the lights back on yet please." as I smiled, then said: "No one can ever accuse us of being an organized religion." to which everyone laughed.
- Play on Light and Darkness with lighting, but it was hard to pull this off in our church...
- My folks there